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Editor in Chief: RAFFAELLO COSSU

PHOTOVOLTAIC MODULE RECYCLING: THERMAL TREATMENT TO DEGRADE POLYMERS AND CONCENTRATE VALUABLE METALS

  • Priscila Silva Silveira Camargo - Department of Materials Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil
  • Andrey da Silva Domingues - Department of Materials Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil
  • João Pedro Guê Palomero - Department of Materials Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil
  • Angela Cristina Kasper - Department of Materials Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil
  • Pablo Ribeiro Dias - School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Hugo M. Veit - Department of Materials Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil

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Abstract

ABSTRACT: This work investigated the thermal treatment to separate and concentrate economically valuable materials from laminates of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules (i.e., photovoltaic modules without the aluminum frame and the junction box). Chemical characterization of the metal content was performed by X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). The polymers of the backsheet were also characterized by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). The influence of the atmosphere (oxidizing and inert) on the decomposition of the backsheet was investigated by Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA). Moreover, non-comminuted samples were tested for 4 thermal time lengths (30, 60, 90, and 120 min) in the furnace under ambient air. The degradation of the polymers was measured and 3 material fractions were obtained: silicon with silver and residual polymers (SS), glass and copper ribbons. Furthermore, there was no statistical difference between the mass losses of the samples submitted for 90 (13.62 ± 0.02 wt.%) and 120 min at 500 °C (p-value = 0.062). In the SS fraction, silver was 20 times more concentrated than in the ground photovoltaic laminate and 30 times more concentrated than high silver concentration ores. The SS fraction (about 6 wt.%) also presented low copper concentration and a high concentration of lead (hazardous metal). About 79 wt.% glass was obtained, as well as 1% copper ribbons (55.69 ± 6.39% copper, 23.17 ± 7.51% lead, 16.06 ± 2.12% tin). The limitations of the treatment and its environmental impact are discussed, and suggestions for industrial-scale application are given.

Keywords


Editorial History

  • Received: 01 Mar 2021
  • Revised: 01 Jul 2021
  • Accepted: 26 Jul 2021
  • Available online: 30 Sep 2021

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